The Central Bank of West African States (French: Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, BCEAO) is a central bank serving the eight west African countries which share the common West African CFA franc currency and comprise the West African Economic and Monetary Union.
The BCEAO is active in developing financial inclusion policy and is a member of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion.
In 1955, the French government transferred the note-issuance privilege for its West African colonies, hitherto held by the Banque de l’Afrique Occidentale, to a newly created entity based in Paris, the Institut d’Emission de l’Afrique Occidentale Française et du Togo (lit. ’Note-Issuing Institute of French West Africa and Togo’). In 1959, the institution’s name was changed to BCEAO.
The treaty establishing the West African Monetary Union (French: Union Monétaire Ouest-Africaine, UMOA) was signed on 12 May 1962 and gave BCEAO the exclusive right to issue currency as the common central bank for the, then, seven member countries: Ivory Coast, Dahomey (later renamed Benin), Haute-Volta (later renamed Burkina Faso), Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. The statutes of the bank were subsequently approved in November 1962 and remained essentially unchanged until 1974, providing for dominant French influence over the BCEAO’s governance.
On June 30, 1962, Mali left the group and adopted the Malian franc as national currency. On December 17, 1963, Togo officially joined the UMOA. On May 30, 1973, Mauritania withdrew and adopted the ouguiya as national currency. On February 17, 1984, Mali re-joined the UMOA. Guinea-Bissau joined the group in 1997.
In 1975, the BCEAO was led for the first time by an African Governor, Ivorian Abdoulaye Fadiga. It remained headquartered in Paris until mid-1978, when its head office was relocated to Dakar. The Dakar headquarters was formally inaugurated on 26 May 1979.
In 1989, BCEAO Governor Alassane Ouattara promoted the creation of a single banking supervisory authority for the entire West African Monetary Union, in a context of banking sector fragility in West Africa and widespread supervisory failure by the then-existing national banking commissions of the individual UMOA member states.
The Banking Commission (French: Commission Bancaire) was established by an international convention signed by the participating governments in Ouagadougou on 24 April 1990, complemented by a bilateral agreement between the BCEAO and Ivory Coast on 16 October 1990 to establish the Commission in Abidjan with appropriate privileges and immunities.
The BCEAO has a main branch, known as agency, in the largest city of each of the member states, whose building typically dominates the local skyline. In Dakar, the BCEAO’s headquarters is in a high-rise building separate from the agency for Senegal. In addition, the BCEAO has branches in Parakou (Benin), Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso), Abengourou, Bouaké, Daloa, Korhogo, Man and San-Pédro (Côte d’Ivoire), Mopti and Sikasso (Mali), Maradi and Zinder (Niger), Kaolack and Ziguinchor (Senegal), and Kara (Togo). In Paris, the BCEAO maintains a representative office in its former headquarters building at 29, rue du Colisée.